How can you know what God is saying to you? I’ve talked about this topic a lot. In previous articles some of the most important ways of hearing God’s voice that I covered are the word of God, through the Holy Spirit’s leading in your heart, and through the circumstances of your life.
In this article, we will talk about 3 specific signs that mean God is probably saying “No” to a question or prayer request you have.
1. If You Have to Force It to Make It Happen, This Probably Means God Is Saying No
I believe in the principle that most things that are truly valuable will not be easy to obtain and maintain. Marriage for example, requires a lot of hard work and effort; so it would be unbiblical to say that if you ever have any issues in dating that this is a sign God is telling you to breakup.
But I do believe there is a difference between overcoming obstacles in life through hard work that the Holy Spirit is empowering you to do compared to forcing your will to happen because you are unwilling to accept God’s “No” to you.
One difference between overcoming a trial in life through faith compared to forcing your own will is that when you are being led by God to overcome a trial in life, the hard work you are putting in will help your relationship with God rather than hurt it. When we are forcing something to happen, our efforts will pull us away from God the harder we try to make this certain thing happen that we really want to happen. As Psalm 32:8-11 states:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
First, this passage teaches us that God is always leading and guiding us. But we have to willing follow him and not resist his will like an animal who won’t listen unless they are forced to obey by oppressive means. God does not want to pin us down and force us to do something. He wants us to follow him willingly and joyfully. One way you can know if you are forcing your own will is when “sorrows” are increasing in your heart because when you are truly following God you will feel surrounded by his “steadfast love.”
In summary, God is saying “No” when the only way forward would be to force your own will to happen, and you will know if you are forcing your own will rather than overcoming a trial in life by how your efforts are affecting your relationship with God. If your hard work to accomplish this thing you want is pulling you away from God rather than enhancing your relationship with the Lord, this is a sign you are forcing it.
2. If You Are Stretching the Word of God to Make It Say What You Want It to Say, God Is Saying No
As Christians, we know that God has spoken through his word and therefore we must obey what the Bible says. Because our conscience would convict us if we were to disobey a blatant command in the Bible just so we could get what we want in life, sometimes Christians are tempted to twist and manipulate the word of God to try and make it say something that it obviously does not say.
For example, if someone really wants to have premarital sex, they may be tempted to try to twist and distort what the Bible says so they can put their own conscience at ease that it really is okay to have sex outside of marriage. Or if they do not want to resist cultural norms and they fear being seen as judgmental or close minded, they may try to twist what the word of God says regarding sins that are clearly condemned in the Bible. As 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV) states:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Oftentimes people don’t want to just deny the word of God, rather they want to feel like they are obeying the word of God; so they find false teachers to tell them what they want to hear. So if you need to bend and twist the word of God to make it say something it does not really say to get the “yes” you really want from God, this is a sign God is actually saying “No.”
3. If You Are Denying Your Own Conscience in an Attempt to Hear a Yes, God Is Probably Saying No
Certainly there are parts of Scripture that are notoriously more difficult to interpret such as the books of Daniel or Revelation. When it comes to sins mentioned in the Bible, however, the meaning of the text is usually very simple and straightforward. So the easiest way to know if God is giving you a “No” is to figure out if there is sin involved. If there is anything sinful about your request, obviously God is saying, “No.”
Sometimes, however, there comes moral decisions that are not quite as clear in the Bible. And besides moral decisions, many times we are faced with morally neutral choices that are not a matter of sin but rather a matter of conscience. For example, it is not a sin to buy a new car. But what if you are struggling to figure out if you personally should buy a car? Perhaps you are unsure how nice of car you should buy, if the car you have now is really in need of being replaced, or if God is leading you to use that money on something else?
It’s in moments like these where God will often lay a conviction on our heart to give us clarity. It would not be immoral to buy a new car. If you have the money and you make a wise purchase, God could be leading you to do this. Or, God could be telling you to be content with what you have and save the money for something else. When we are faced with personal choices like this, we won’t always find a direct Bible verse to tell us what to do and no other person can tell you which is the right or wrong choice for you personally.
So when you are faced with morally neutral decisions like these, you have to obey the personal leading of the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes the Holy Spirit will speak through your conscience. If you have to deny your own conscience to do something, this usually means that God is telling you “No.”